It’s official – the WTA Tour announced today that Maria Sharapova has withdrawn from the upcoming Sony Ericsson Open tournament in Miami. She won’t be playing doubles, either. From the WTA website:
Maria Sharapova has withdrawn from the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami this month due to continued recovery from her shoulder injury. Sharapova has been suffering from a torn rotator cuff since April 2008 and has not played a tournament in singles since the Rogers Cup in Montréal in the summer of 2008.
According to Tennisreporters.net, Maria’s return to the tour will likely be in May, at the Premier-level clay tournament in Rome. Until then, she’ll do the requisite sponsor stuff early next week in Miami before going back to Phoenix (appropriate, no?) for more rehab work on her shoulder.
Wow. This is no surprise, but I’m still stunned. Maria will likely fall out of the top 30 after Indian Wells, and it’s scary to contemplate the mountain she’ll need to climb to get back on top. Then again, after watching Indian Wells’ top seed, Dinara Safina, winning matches this week despite hitting up to 50 unforced errors a match, the mountain may be more like a bunny slope. (Side rant: I’m so sick of hearing commentators praise players for “winning without playing their best tennis” – please, can someone on the WTA tour actually win a match by playing well?!)
James Martin wrote an interesting article for ESPN about Maria’s current “career crossroads,” which sums up my anxieties pretty well:
Unless your name is Serena or Andre, an extended layoff is not going to do your game any favors. Just ask Lleyton Hewitt. At this level, as the competition constantly improves, losing even a half a step can mean the difference between getting the ball back and getting beat. Sharapova’s wheels are fine, of course, and though she’s no speed merchant, she can work her way back to match fitness.
But what about the shoulder? Her serve was one of her biggest weapons. Stripped of a powerful delivery, Maria Sharapova becomes Elena Dementieva — a good, but not great, player. (Indeed, I’d probably pick Dementieva in that head-to-head scenario.)
Of course, until her early exit this week, the “good/not great” Elena Dementieva was considered a favorite to win Indian Wells. As long as the Williams sisters aren’t playing every week, it’s any gal’s game on the WTA tour – might as well be Maria’s.
If you’re dying for a Sharapova-fix, I recommend checking out this video from the 2008 Australian Open final, where Maria dominated Ana Ivanovic in straight sets. Enjoy!:
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